Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Scrolling Fighting Games #3

Robo Army (1991)
By: SNK Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: SNK Neo Geo MVS First Day Score: 10,500
Also Available For: Neo Geo AES & CD

Ask most people what kind of game they associate with the mighty Neo Geo and most will undoubtedly say one-on-one fighting games. This is understandable since the machine is positively flooded by games of this type, and mostly good ones too, but what of scrolling fighting games? Well, unknown by me until recently, there is one that goes back just about as far as the Neo Geo itself does! The moment of revelation for me came at the recent R3Play Gaming Expo in Blackpool where my friend Rich and I discovered the only AES at the show was running a game of the type in question. So, I'd discovered its existence, but the fighting game pedigree of the host console gave it a lot to live up to. Is the system as adept at the scrolling variety of fighting games?

Monday, 29 November 2010

Music #3 - Pete Droge

As was the case with Dressy Bessy in my last music piece, it was also movies that introduced me to Mr. Droge. It was 1995 and the film in question is slightly less embarrassing than the rather girlie film that introduced me to Denver's finest. This time it was while watching the highly amusing Dumb and Dumber, starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as the buffoons of the title, that I first heard the catchy melodies of 'If You Don't Love Me (I'll Kill Myself)', the tongue-in-cheek song that accompanies Harry's (Daniels) attempts to steal Lloyd's (Carrey) unrequited love, Mary!

Almost as soon as the movie was over I was trying to find out who the song was by but, what with this being the days before the internet (at least for me), it wasn't as easy as you might think! I did find out in the end though, with the help of Metal Hammer magazine as I recall, and thus my Pete Droge fandom had begun. Born in 1969 and growing up in Seattle, Pete had the unfortunate distinction of sharing his fledgling musical years with the rise of Seattle's grunge scene, and specifically that of Nirvana. Not all the bad luck was on his side though as he also became friends with a certain Mike McCready who would go on to find fame as Pearl Jam's guitarist. Around the time his friend's band were hitting the big time, Pete had his own band, Ramadillo. They did not share the suddenly popular sound that music fans were flocking to Seattle to hear though, so sadly they didn't achieve much success. However, through his continuing friendship with McCready, he got his lucky break soon after relocating to Portland. Pete's friend passed a recording of some of his solo songs to Pearl Jam's producer, Brendan O'Brien, who was so impressed he helped Pete get his first major record deal.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Single Screen Platform Games #4

Kid Gloves (1990)
By: Logotron  Genre: Platform  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga  First Day Score: 48,550
Also Available For: Atari ST

The poor old Amiga games industry was ravaged by pirated copies of games flooding the market and friends copying games for each other, it was this more than anything else that brought Commodore down in the mid-90's. I've always tried to avoid that sort of business but when I belatedly got my Amiga, a friend gave me a box of discs with copied games on. Some didn't work, others were pretty sucky, but of them all Kid Gloves is probably the one I played the most, guiltily of course, but seeing as it was later given away free by Amiga Power magazine I don't feel so bad now! However, since I no longer have my Amiga and have developed a deep fear of using WinUAE, it's been a long time since I played this game. It's not looked upon too favourably by the Amiga community these days, I wonder if I'm about to destroy my happy memories of playing it too...

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Master System Shmups #3

Fantasy Zone 2 (1987)
By: Sega  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega Master System  First Day Score: 40,000
Also Available For: Arcade, Nintendo NES, MSX
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Sega pretty much invented the quickly-dubbed 'cute em up' sub-genre with Fantasy Zone and it was an interesting fusion of gaming styles. The bright, colourful graphics full of funny-looking creatures and cute characters belied the tough shooting action the game provided, but it proved to be very popular and was converted to several platforms of the time. Set ten years later, this inevitable sequel tells pretty much the same story as the first game - the now-expanded territory of the Fantasy Zone has come under renewed attack from the evil Menon Empire who are once again attempting to construct a huge fortress in the Fantasy Zone. He's getting on a bit now but Opa-Opa still springs into action to save the day!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Top Five Kylie Photoshoots

Kylie Minogue... For many of us she's been with us since we saw her fixing up her old Mini back in the heyday of Neighbours, or at least since we were swamped by the out-pourings of Stock, Aitken, and Waterman through the late 80's and into the 90's, but even her biggest detractors would have to admit she's persistent, remaining as popular now as ever after nearly around 25 years in show business. However, just as her biggest critics would begrudgingly give her her dues, her biggest fans would be hard-pushed to claim her enduring fame and success is down to raw talent either. She certainly has some talent, but a big part of her success could also be largely put down to her... *ahem*... physical attributes! Luckily for her many fans, she has rarely seemed shy about giving us a closer look, apparently quite happily getting her kit off to some degree or other on a large number of occasions. To that end, here I've selected her Top Five photoshoots. Hope you enjoy! ;)

5. Tous Spring/Summer 2009 Collection

She's wearing an uncharacteristically large amount of clothes in this advertising campaign, photographed by Ellen von Unwerth, and I don't generally have much love for loads of make-up, but this is a particularly stylish shoot with Kylie looking a mixture of elegant and sultry.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

F-Zero Series - Part 3

F-Zero X (1998)
By: Nintendo EAD  Genre: Racing  Players: 1-4  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo 64
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Despite being a highly accomplished racing game, the original F-Zero was perhaps most highly regarded for its admittedly impressive technical prowess. When news of a full sequel (F-Zero 2 was more like a 'data-disk') on Nintendo's brand spanking new 64-bit powerhouse emerged, mouths began to salivate at the prospect of what wonders might befall gamers. However, when it finally arrived it wasn't as instantly mind-blowing as many gamers were expecting. After the bar-raising the original did, a similar advancement was expected here, but the graphical detail was actually notably inferior to most of the other N64 games that had been doing the rounds, nevermind markedly better. This was apparently done on purpose by Nintendo so they could achieve a constant silky-smooth frame-rate of sixty frames per second. Their decision wasn't met with much enthusiasm at first though. Was it worth the risk?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Star Control - Part 2

The first Star Control title really is a game of two-halves. The 'Main' game is seen as the strategy side of the game with its turn-based, territorial expansion-based shenanigans, while the 'Melee' mode is seen as the action, shoot 'em up side, but it is a lot more strategic than people realise itself. Each of the fourteen starships in the game has many variables, as can be seen in some of the screenshots below and, while it's possible for any one ship to defeat any one other, there are certain ships that are better or worse against certain others, and many crafty tactics can be employed to exploit their weaknesses. There really is nothing like an epic Melee battle between two experienced, well-matched combatants. Each lurking on opposite sides of the screen trying to guess what the other is thinking, the occasional skirmish to test each other. They can be very tense affairs! So, for the benefit of any budding Melee-Masters, the next installment in my series of Star Control features will take a look at the ships used by the seven races that comprise the Alliance of Free Stars (the 'good guys')...

Chenjesu Broodhome

Arguably my favourite ship in the game! This is the flagship of the Alliance fleet, used by the crystalline Chenjesu species. While not particularly quick, it's big and powerful enough for that not to matter most of the time. It's primary weapon is the Photon Shard which is a round projectile with an infinite range - when you launch one, keep your finger on the fire button and the shard will continue on for as long as you hold down the button! It's the longest range weapon in the game and causes devastating damage with a direct hit (some smaller ships can be taken out with one strike), but you can only fire one at a time. When you release the fire button the shard will fragment into eight smaller pieces that travel a short distance causing minimal damage.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Top Five Amiga Shmups

It's generally accepted that, outside of the arcades at least, shoot 'em ups have always been the province of consoles. There were a few good examples on the Spectrum, Amstrad, Commodore 64, Atari 400 & 800, etc, and the arrival of the more powerful 16-bit machines should've heralded even more, but they never really came, despite the genre's enduring popularity. Few could argue with either the quantity or quality of offerings on the likes of the NES, PC Engine, or MegaDrive, and I myself, in my days as a die-hard Sega fanboy, used to champion the latter console as Lord of Shmups. Of all the computers, however, it was arguably the Commodore Amiga that fared the best with its shmups with not only some decent arcade conversions but also a good few original games too. In fact, I believe all the games in this Top Five were Amiga exclusives! Here they are:

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: Unlike my usual Games-Related Top Five Disclaimers, which cover my arse by mentioning that the list was compiled only from games that I already know and love, and that any great games not featured may well not yet have been played by me, this one is different, mainly because I never was a big Amiga gamer and probably hadn't even played five shmups on it! Therefore I had to research this list thoroughly by playing each game via emulation. However, to finally get to the actual 'disclaimer' part, there was a few supposedly great games that I wasn't able to play (because they didn't work). Therefore, assuming I ever am able to play them, I'll make a revised list accordingly. Phew!

5. Agony (1992)

Regarded as something of a tart by many Amiga owners, it's easy to see where Agony gets this reputation - the presentation and graphics really are something else and leave the gameplay with a lot to live up to. It's certainly a pretty original concept, with you in control of an owl which uses echo-location to take down the masses of evil creatures spread across the six worlds that lie between it and the 'Cosmic Power' that it seeks. The intro/loading screens feature beautiful artwork and music, and in-game action is similarly gorgeous. This certainly isn't the most playable shmup I've played, even just on the Amiga, but at the same time its reputation seems a little unfair. Besides its stunning aesthetics Agony is a unique and enjoyable horizontal-scroller which would've blown my socks off if I'd discovered it when it originally came out!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Mobile Games #1

Angry Birds (2010)
By: Rovio  Genre: Puzzle  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Android  First Day Score: 108,400 (single stage best)
Also Available For: PC (forthcoming), iPhone/iPod, Symbian

You know, the progress of mobile communication technology really has been remarkable. After many years of refusal to conform, I finally had to yield and buy my first mobile phone, and even to this day I'm only on my third phone. I had no intention of ever using any of them to play videogames and, were it not for a quirk of fate, I'd still be using my second phone and continuing to not play games on it! Through much of this time, however, I had been watching, with a certain degree of envy, admittedly, the evolution of the iPhone as a legitimate gaming platform, yet no single game tempted me enough to take the plunge. Until this one.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Arcade Shmups #3

Metal Black (1991)
By: Taito  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 98,810 (one credit)
Also Available For: Sega Saturn

One of the great things about writing this blog is that I end up learning so much more about the history of gaming. The most recent thing I've learnt is that Taito apparently made a lot more shmups that I had realised! This one was originally intended to be a sequel to their recently-covered, slightly odd vertical-scroller, Gun Frontier. If you've played both games, however, you'll know they actually have very little in common! Perhaps the most immediately obvious difference between them is that the perspective has shifted to a side view for this game, but the story seems to bear no similarity to the Wild West theme from Gun Frontier either, with Taito apparently settling for a more generic 'evil alien invasion' type story here.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Overhead Racers #5

Drift Out '94 - The Hard Order (1994)
By: Visco Corp  Genre: Overhead Racing  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade
Also Available For: Neo Geo (variation)

As far as my memory is concerned at least, the original Drift Out was something of an inconspicuous entry in the overhead racing genre, so considering how little-known it apparently was, I was surprised to find that it's actually got a sequel! Like the first game, which has a SNES game based on it, Drift Out '94 was also exclusive to the arcades but also received a modified home conversion in Neo Drift Out for the NeoGeo. Whilst similar, they are different games, and we'll look at SNK's game in a later post, but both are pretty similar to the first game except for one big difference - instead of the direct overhead view used before, Visco Corp have instead shifted the perspective to an angled overhead one.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Film Review #15

The Other Guys (2010)
Director: Adam McKay Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Steve Coogan, Michael Keaton, Samuel L Jackson, Dwayne Johnson

Certificate: 12A  Running Time: 107 Minutes

Tagline: "When the top cops are busy...our only hope is... The Other Guys"

Hollywood has produced countless cop films over the years. More often than not they feature hero cops who have saved the day over and over. But what about the other guys - the cops lurking in the background who get lumbered with all the mundane assignments and spend half their time doing paperwork while the top guys bask in the glory? Will they ever have a chance to show what they can do when they get the chance? Well thanks to another McKay / Ferrell collaboration, we get to find out! I suppose their brand of comedic lunacy is an acquired taste but it's a fruitful partnership that has so far yielded the highly humorous Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers, so the pedigree is certainly there. I don't know about you but I was dearly hoping The Other Guys would keep their run intact...

Sunday, 14 November 2010

R3PLAY - the Gaming Expo in Blackpool - Part 3

Here's the rest of the pictures I took of the event itself and the various systems present there. Notice the 'Minimig', the lovely red Game Gear (is this a rare, limited edition version, or a custom job?), even a N64DD running F-Zero X Expansion Pack which I'm furious with myself for missing - I didn't even notice it until I went through my pictures! I'm a huge F-Zero X fan so, not only would I have destroyed all-comers at the game itself, but I also missed the opportunity to play the Expansion Pack too. Grrrr! It'd better be at the next retro show. I might go specially to play that! I was very pleased, however, to get the chance to play an Astro Wars machine again. I fondly recall a weekend visit to my cousin's house when I was young. As soon as I discovered he had an Astro Wars I spent pretty much the entire weekend playing that, even in the car as my parents collected me! It's still great fun too :)

Saturday, 13 November 2010

R3PLAY - the Gaming Expo in Blackpool - Part 2

Having arrived in Blackpool around half-way through the first day of R3Play, we had obviously missed quite a bit, but as soon as we did arrive we had plenty to explore. Arcade machines are particularly appealing to me so they were my first port-of-call, and many great machines there were too. The first game I played was Viewpoint on a lovely MAME cabinet (and it's still as tough as I remember!) but I soon played many others too. It also took me a good while to find event organiser, Godon Sinclair, who had asked me to bring my own console with me, namely my Japanese Skeleton Saturn (there's a pic of it below!).

I also enjoyed walking around the rows upon rows of tables filled with various consoles and computers and was thrilled with the opportunity to play games on some systems I've never used before such as a Vectrex, a Sam Coupe, a Spectrum running Twitter of all things, a lovely shiny Panasonic Q GameCube, an XBox running 'Steel Battalion' (complete with immense controller), and even the mighty PC Engine SuperGrafx! There was so many systems around, I seemed to find new ones every time I walked around, including something I never even knew existed - a 'Minimig', and Amiga compressed down into a teeny little box. There were also a few stands that I'd missed on my initial walk around the large hall, including a Nintendo Unleashed stand, which was showcasing some of the latest Wii games like Goldeneye and Kirby's Epic Yarn, another Wii-related stand running 'Just Dance 2', another showcasing 'PlayStaion Move', and last but not least, a Sumo Digital stand helmed by the company's Executive Producer, Steve Lycett, who was very friendly and happy to answer questions. Cheers Steve!

Anyway, here's a few more pics of the event, including some close-ups of some of the great systems there.

Friday, 12 November 2010

R3PLAY - the Gaming Expo in Blackpool - Part 1

You know, it's nice being part of a community. Even if it's one viewed as a bit geeky or even weird by some less-informed (not to mention judegemental) people. Forums like the splendid Retro Gamer one are great place for like-minded enthusiasts to share knowledge or just chat about whatever, but every now and then a few determined individuals organise an event for fans to gather, chat, share a few drinks, and of course play retro games! The most recent of these (at time of writing) was the R3Play Expo in Blackpool, north-west England.

There have been a number of previous events already which I have personally not attended for various reasons (not least the travelling usually involved) but this year was different. After being asked to write for the official R3Play magazine, I started to consider actually going to it! Sure enough, four hours and four trains later I was in Gloucester to meet up with my good friend Luke before we headed off again in his car to Blackpool. A further five hours of motorways, during which we listened to various classic videogame music to suitably set the mood, and we were there...

In and Around the Hotel:

I certainly wasn't the only Retro Gamer forumite attending R3Play - there were dozens there! Many of them were staying for the full weekend of the show and had booked rooms at the Bipsham Inn Hotel. Unfortunately I was unable to get a room there as it was fully booked (I found out why when I got to Blackpool - it's not very big!) so Luke instead arranged our hotel. The one he chose was, sensibly enough, the Norbreck Castle Hotel - the very venue of R3Play itself! I later discovered that the other guys from the forum had actively avoided this hotel due to its supposedly horrifying rooms and service, but to he honest, aside from a bit of noise, I couldn't really fault the place - decent sized room, lush breakfast, decent facilities, and we couldn't have been much closer to the event itself!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

My Favourite Games - Part 10

And so... we finally reach the end of My Favourite Games. As expected there's lots of games I'm fond of that I couldn't find space for, and I'm sure as Red Parsley wears on there will be many more to consider, and even replace some of the games already here. Nearly all these games come from my younger days and I enjoyed them all in their prime and continue to enjoy them now, but since the purpose of this blog it to help me discover older games I haven't previously played, some new lists will undoubtedly follow. Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed reading my lists as much as I have enjoyed writing them. After a few R3Play-related posts here we'll be back to business as usual. Feedback is always welcome, so feel free to email me or message me on Facebook :)

Wiz 'n' Liz - MegaDrive (1993)

Also released on the Amiga, this frantic platformer is not very well known for some reason, despite receiving decent reviews in its day. That never stopped me from playing it to death on my MD though, and I still do! This is also a good example of how games don't need to be remotely violent to be great fun - aside from a few bosses there's not a single enemy in the whole game! The object is to rescue all the rabbits that were stolen from the amusingly-named planet of Pum. Collecting rabbits releases letters and fruits which can be used to spell out and then mix magic spells, and they release various other items too. There is a huge variety of magic spells, each of which has a different effect - some give you bonuses, some are mini-games, others are just for fun. With fantastic graphics and music, this fast-paced platformer is a criminally under-played gem (which also offers simultaneous two-player action) and I can't stop playing it!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

My Favourite Games - Part 9

It looks like the R3Play report will have to wait a day or two, the pictures are a pain in the arse to upload and my opportunities to do so are limited. There's really not a great deal to see anyway, unless you were there and want to see if you can spot yourself! So in the meantime... continuing with My Favourite Games, here's the penultimate list:

Blast Corps - Nintendo 64 (1997)

This was Rare's first game for the N64 and what a start! It would also end up being the first in a long, amazingly successful run for the company on that console which many said rivalled that of Nintendo themselves, and with titles like this on offer it's hard to argue. The premise was simple - a truck with leaking nuclear missiles has been set on a straight path to a safe detonation area. Your job is to demolish everything in its way. Yes, it sounded awesome and happily it played awesome too! Featuring eight unique vehicles custom-built for the express purpose of destroying stuff including three robotic suits, there can't be anyone who didn't enjoy the mayhem offered by this game, and the stages were punctuated by time trial stages which featured yet more vehicles and usually involved a race of some sort. Amazingly playable, superb fun, and a thoroughly unique and brilliant soundtrack too!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

My Favourite Games - Part 8

Well, I finally got back from R3Play yesterday evening and what a fantastic event it was! An upcoming post will reveal its wonders including a good few photos, but for now here's the next five games I've bestowed with the honour of appearing in the list of My Favourite Games!

Saturn Bomberman - Saturn (1997)

The Bomberman series is unquestionably one of my favourite series' of all-time and it's almost unanimous that this Saturn-exclusive version is the best. Unlike many who view the Bomberman games exclusively as multi-player games, I personally really enjoy the single player modes on most of them too. The simple pleasure of trapping enemies and blowing them up, gradually powering-up our White Bomber hero, and progressing through the stages is one that I enjoy a lot, and the stages in this release are the most inventive and feature-laden yet. However, no one can question the frenetic fun of a multi-player Bomberman session and this is another area in which SB excels - it's possible to have up to ten players simultaneously battling away here and it's among the most fun that can be had in any game!

Friday, 5 November 2010

My Favourite Games - Part 7

Blimey, it feels like going back to the early days of Red Parsley posting these lists again! Still, I guess I could do with a few easy posts since I'm gearing up for R3Play at the moment (leaving in a few hours - eeek!). Anyone in England, particularly the north-west, could do a lot worse than to check out this giant retro gaming geek-fest! I'll be there along with my good buddy Luke, and I'm looking forward to meeting a lot of Retro Gamer Forumites and Facebook friends there too. It should be an event of special magnificence! Look out for an R3Play-related post here at Red Parsley in the days thereafter. Anyway, on to business... here are the next five of my favourite games!

Fighters Megamix - Saturn (1997)

Rarely have I looked forward to a release like I did this one! Unlike many gamers, I never really warmed to the Virtua Fighter style of combat, but it had its good points, and I did like Fighting Vipers a lot, so imagine my excitement at receiving news of this! The extensive roster of combatants includes all of those from both VF2 and FV and let you fight in the style of either game, and also included a dozen or so secret unlockable characters and multiple play modes, so for its day it was a beat 'em up with a lot of longevity. Despite being fond of Candy (for the obvious reasons), I usually fought as Raxel - who wouldn't enjoy smashing people through walls with a Flying V guitar?! Until Soul Calibur came along, this was the most feature-laden fighting game I'd played and it's still immensely enjoyable.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

My Favourite Games - Part 6

Now that Red Parsley has reached 100 posts (hooray!), I figured a good way to start the second set of hundred posts would be the same way as I started the first hundred - by detailing my favourite games! For those who haven't been visiting here for that long, my first five Red Parsley posts each listed five of my all-time favourite games. With the first twenty-five games, I didn't really cover a particularly broad range of systems - a reflection on the machines I grew up with I suppose - and the next twenty-five beginning with this post do little to diversify things. However, considering how many new games and systems writing this blog is gradually exposing me to, I'll finish off my Top 50 over the next few days, then make a whole new Top 50 in the future. I'm sure that list will be far more varied, but for now here are the next five of my old favourites:

Gran Turismo - PlayStation (1998)

There's been a few landmark driving games over the years but I can't remember any that had the impact that Gran Turismo had. Much of the adulation it received initially was earned by the near photo-realistic quality of its action replays, although this always confused me - sure they look good, but it's the game that counts, isn't it? Luckily, this aspect of the game was also ground-breaking in many ways. Featuring masses of real cars, numerous testing circuit-based courses, extensive car customisation options, and lots and lots of competitions, this was a driving game fan's dream come true, and is still the series others aspire to. Many prefer one of the various sequels but this original is the one I always return to, mainly because I've never been too good at 'simulation' driving games but this game lets you keep boosting the power of your car until you're more powerful than your rivals (the sequels brought in BHP limits for races)! My trusty Honda Prelude destroys all!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Bomberman Series - Part 2

Bomberman (1985)
By: Hudson Soft  Genre: Action  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES  First Day Score: 35,800
Also Available For: ZX Spectrum, MSX, Sharp MZ-700, Fujitsu FM-7, NEC PC-6001, NEC PC-88

Until a few years ago, the Bomberman series began on the PC Engine for me, so I was surprised to discover that its origins actually go beyond that famous version to a multitude of older Japanese systems, many of them computers rather than the consoles the series would soon find a home on. It was released in the West, on the Speccy no less, and featured a curious main character called Eric who was an explorer looking to plunder treasure from caverns. The Japanese releases, however, featured the classic White Bomber we all know and love today, and the most widely available of these, to those gamers in the West at least, was the NES version. White Bomber himself is apparently a sentient robot who wants to be free of his job in an underground bomb factory. To do this, he must blast his way through fifty stages populated by a variety of enemies who, rather harshly, kill White Bomber with a single touch!